We are now entering the second decade of the existence of cryptocurrency, and it seems that some of the initial predictions of early adopters may have come true. The most commonly cited prediction by the mainstream media was of Bitcoin’s failure, either because of its lack of intrinsic value or because crypto would be successfully outlawed. That clearly didn’t happen.
The reverse actually became true. Bitcoin became the top-performing asset of the entire decade: it saw a rise of 9,000,000% over 10 years — and caused speculation of a bubble. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also issued its first set of tax guidance rules for cryptocurrencies and then attempted to clarify them, which suggested an acceptance of the use of cryptocurrency to build wealth and trade.
Bitcoin, and crypto in general, also began moving from being a hobbyist interest to piquing the interests of institutions. There are now hundreds of traditional companies involved with Bitcoin. And you can do more than trade on exchanges. You can pay for your takeaway pizza with Bitcoin (if you live in the Netherlands).
What’s next in the cryptocurrency world? Where is it poised to take off further, and what could be standing in the way of future adoption? It’s hard to say, but we could be in for another decade of Bitcoin and other stable currencies defying expectations.
From Honeymoon to the Black Market
A big component of the growth of cryptocurrency has been and will continue to be the value of the underlying blockchain technology. Over the past decade, blockchain technology has come to spur future technologies in a number of sectors, including finance, healthcare, supply chain management and even real estate. Deloitte’s 2019 Global Blockchain Survey found that 83% of senior executives said there was a compelling case for adopting blockchain.
It’s widely accepted that 2019 was the year of enterprise blockchain adoption. As more and more companies and industries discover the benefits of blockchain for their operations, they come to better understand both the value of blockchain and, by extension, the value of cryptocurrencies. In 2018, 10 major companies who are also blockchain adopters began talking about launching their own cryptocurrencies. These include Facebook’s ill-fated Libra but also offers from JP Morgan Chase, Walmart, Amazon and AirAsia.
One of the biggest fears in the cryptocurrency community has been the ban of crypto. While, of course, it could live on in theory through mining and trading, a ban would prevent any meaningful expansion, as it would force banks and card issuers to decline and even investigate any transaction that looked as though it was linked to cryptocurrency. This would be tragic: Cryptocurrency has come so far in terms of its relationships with the banking system.
Even still, 2019 was a rough year for Bitcoin’s reputation among world leaders — not surprisingly given that Bitcoin itself is an act of resistance — and those predicting a war on Bitcoin suggested that the battle was about to begin. US President Donald Trump threatened Bitcoin on Twitter, and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he believed crypto was a national security threat. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a full ban on all crypto. It looked as though Bitcoin would transition from the honeymoon phase to the dreaded black-market phase.
Will Bitcoin become illegal in the future? It’s always possible, but it looks unlikely. Instead, some countries are more likely to overregulate Bitcoin, making it much harder to buy, sell and trade, particularly as cryptocurrency becomes an act of resistance in places like Pakistan through programs like Building Blocks. For example, the IRS could change its current tax structure and make it even more unfriendly to cryptocurrency buyers.
As cryptocurrency becomes more mainstream, there will be a renewed focus on security. Preventing digital identity theft will be very important, and most of that focus will continue to rely on using a strong firewall and using secure passwords. While blockchain is innately secure in some ways, protecting wallets will become more complicated than password hygiene alone.
It will be important for buyers to do more research on exchanges and for that research to be readily available. As the market grows, so too will the number of exchanges that are either malicious or run ineptly. In 2019, a crypto exchange CEO died suddenly and took the key to $137 million in cryptocurrency with him. While the focus will likely remain on cybersecurity, corporate governance is another form of security that will require more scrutiny.
At present, cryptocurrency is on target to have another great decade, but as in 2010, it’s important to take threats to its value and continued existence seriously. Blockchain and crypto have come a long way, but they are by no means immune from other global trends.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.